Arizona uses a five-person independent commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. On Oct. 23, 2020, the House majority leader chose one commissioner from a pool put forward by the state’s commission on appellate court appointments; on Oct. 29, 2020, the House minority leader chose another one of the five. There is pending litigation over the pool of individuals eligible to serve as Chair.
In the 2010 cycle, ostensible controversy over the commission‘s compliance with open meetings laws led to the Nov. 1, 2011, impeachment of the commission’s chair; on Nov. 17, 2011, the state Supreme Court found the impeachment improper, and reinstated the chair. On Jan. 17, 2012, the commission voted 3-2 to approve final legislative and congressional maps; the congressional map was precleared on Apr. 9, 2012, and the state legislative map was precleared on Apr. 26, 2012. State and federal lawsuits challenging the commission’s composition, its process, and the congressional and state legislative maps were all rejected.
Arizona’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member independent commission, created by ballot initiative in 2000. For the three years before their appointment to the commission, none of the commissioners may have been appointed to, or a candidate for, any public office; an officer of a political party; a paid lobbyist; or an officer of a candidate’s campaign committee.
The state’s commission on appellate court appointments nominates 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and 5 individuals not registered with either major party; the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) each choose one commissioner from this pool of 25 nominees. Those four commissioners then select a fifth tiebreaker who is not registered in the same party as any other commissioner. Each commissioner must be an Arizona voter registered with the same political party (or unaffiliated) for at least three years, and at most two of the first four commissioners may live in the same county. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(3)-(8)]
Arizona state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional or state legislative lines; candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Apr. 4, 2022. [Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-311(a)]
Arizona prohibits redrawing district lines mid-decade, before the next Census. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(23)]
Like all states, Arizona must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and state law further asks that districts have equal population to the extent practicable. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14)(B)]
Arizona must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.
The Arizona constitution, uniquely, requires that the district map begin with a “grid-like pattern.” Districts are then adjusted to be contiguous, geographically compact, and respect communities of interest — all to the extent practicable. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14); Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 121 P.3d 843 (Ariz. Ct. Appeal 2005)]
The state constitution also provides that, to the extent practicable, district lines should use visible geographic features, city, town, and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14)] Finally, the state constitution asks that, to the extent practicable, competitive districts be favored where doing so would not significantly detract from the goals above. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14); Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 208 P.3d 676 (Ariz. 2009)]
State legislative districts are, by definition, nested; one Senator and two Representatives are elected from each district. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(1)]
Party registration and voting history data may not be used in the “initial phase” of the mapping process, but can be used to ensure that plans ultimately meet the goals above. The commission may not consider the homes of candidates. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(15)]
The state Attorney General launched an investigation into commission proceedings based on alleged violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law, and sought a court order forcing the independent commissioners to cooperate; the commissioners counter-sued, alleging political interference with their process. Before the investigation was complete, the Governor on Nov. 1, 2011 called for the impeachment of the commission’s chair, which was approved by 2/3 of the state Senate. On Nov. 17, 2011, the Arizona Supreme Court found the impeachment improper and reinstated the chair. [State ex rel. Montgomery v. Mathis, 290 P.3d 1226 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2012); Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n v. Brewer, 275 P.3d 1267 (Ariz. 2012)]
The congressional plan was challenged in state court, the state legislative plans were challenged in federal court, and the authority of the commission to conduct congressional redistricting at all was challenged in federal court. No challenge was successful. [Leach v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, No. CV-2012-007344, 2017 WL 9500782 (Ariz. Super. Ct., Maricopa Cnty. Mar. 16, 2017); Harris v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 136 S. Ct. 1301 (2016); Ariz. State Legislature v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 576 U.S. 787 (2015)]
Arizona’s commission first drew state legislative maps that drew an objection from the Department of Justice. The commission revised their districts, and a federal court authorized those districts for use in the 2002 elections, on an emergency basis only. The commission then revised the districts once again, and adopted a final plan on 8/14/02, which was precleared on 2/10/03.
Arizona’s commission also drew congressional maps, which were precleared on 3/26/02.
Both the second state legislative plan and the congressional plan were challenged in state court, and both were ultimately upheld. [Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 121 P.3d 843 (Ariz. Ct. Appeal 2005); Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 208 P.3d 676 (Ariz. 2009)]